Rural Aid triples counselling team

  • Rural Aid counsellor Gary Bentley meets with a farmer.
    Rural Aid counsellor Gary Bentley meets with a farmer.
  • John Walters, CEO of Rural Aid.
    John Walters, CEO of Rural Aid.

Australia’s most trusted rural charity, Rural Aid, has made its biggest investment to date into improving regional mental health.

The charity has appointed 10 new counsellors across the country, committing $3.75 million over the next three years to help address the yawning gaps in regional mental health care. Nine of Rural Aid’s new counsellors are already in place, actively serving their regional communities.

Rural Aid counsellors offer free, confidential support to farmers and their families. Rural Aid’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Team prefer to visit farmers on their properties.

Rural Aid CEO John Warlters said ‘Rural Aid’s commitment to placing counsellors in rural Australia will save lives.’

‘We know people who live regionally have poorer access to health professionals and are more likely to struggle with their mental health due to lack of appropriate and timely support. Farmers and rural teenagers have more than double the rate of suicide compared to urban populations. Rural Aid is desperately trying to change that.’

Liz Bellette-Stubbs is one of Rural Aid’s new counsellors and is based in Bega, New South Wales.

‘What drew me to Rural Aid was how accessible their wellbeing program is,’ Mrs Bellette-Stubbs said.

‘Not only are the counsellors available without a huge waiting list, but we’re free too. Farmers are often so stretched that they can’t afford to buy feed for their animals, let alone spend money on themselves.’

Mr Warlters said Rural Aid’s counsellors are mental wellbeing specialists who counsel, teach and refer clients to higher levels of care.

‘We know that investing in early intervention achieves results. It leads to a reduction in the number of people who require acute treatment. This is achieved through the provision of mental wellbeing education, tools and pathways for assistance at the preventive end. Rural Aid counsellors are qualified to assist farmers across the continuum of mental health, from prevention and early intervention, right through to treatment,’ Mr Warlters said.

‘If we can get to people early, have them recognise symptoms and get some simple but effective strategies, we help them before things escalate to the point they need hospitalisation. This will reduce pressure on the health system, while prevention strategies will help rural people to live the best lives they can. Our counselling program has been highly successful; making a real difference to the farmers that Rural Aid supports. Our counsellors work with their communities to create and implement vital mental health programs and strategies. Rural Aid counsellors build trusted relationships with their local communities. Our counsellors also attend field days, events and natural disaster sites.’

Rural Aid’s new counsellors are based in:

  • Victoria – Mildura, Bairnsdale and Geelong
  • New South Wales – Inverell and Bega
  • South Australia – Berri and Port Augusta
  • Western Australia – Northam and Wagin.

Rural Aid is currently sourcing another counsellor in Central Queensland.

The new counsellors add to Rural Aid’s existing team of counsellors based in:

  • Victoria – Wodonga
  • Queensland – Ipswich and Toowoomba
  • New South Wales – Cessnock and West Wyalong.

For more information on Rural Aid’s counsellors, visit their profiles at www.ruralaid.org.au/counsellors

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